Do we still need lawyers now that there’s ChatGPT?
AI, and more specifically ChatGPT, has exploded onto the scene, shocking individuals across a wide range of industries into asking, ‘Will it replace me?’. We take a look at whether it’s time to get rid of lawyers.
The ChatGPT explosion, what it does, and where it gets its information
ChatGPT reportedly had 100 million active users in January 2023, just two months after its launch. A partially free OpenAI chatbot, ChatGPT responds to questions, suggests titles, and can write lengthy articles and even novels.
It processes natural language to try to generate the right text in response. It remembers what you have asked before and takes this into account if asked to make corrections.
The source of its response is a vast array of content scraped from the internet. It will select what it believes to be the most accurate response to a request at any one time, meaning it will not always provide the same answer to the same question. Because of the nature of the internet, the content will need to be checked for accuracy.
Once it has a certain amount of information, it can add further sentences that it believes would plausibly follow.
How could lawyers use ChatGPT and what would be the benefits?
If ChatGPT can be reliably used to draft and analyse straightforward contracts, research, carry out due diligence, and check regulatory compliance, it could free lawyers to concentrate on more complex work. This should improve productivity, although it should be stressed that everything ChatGPT produces must be scrupulously fact-checked.
Helping lawyers communicate
The technology could also potentially be used to draft emails and correspondence to clients, other law firms, and the courts, particularly where this is standard.
Access to a wide range of legal source information
Because of its extensive search of the internet in responding to tasks, ChatGPT could potentially provide a wider range of legal sources than a lawyer might easily find themselves, such as more obscure case law.
There could be scope to reduce costs by using AI to carry out some of the basic initial tasks in a case as well as producing formulaic correspondence and contracts later on, allowing lawyers to focus on other more demanding work.
Why we’ll still need the lawyers
Realistically, ChatGPT is a very long way from being to take over the role of a lawyer. The accuracy needed in legal output and the subtleties of making or defending a legal claim successfully currently seem out of its reach.
Answers to legal questions are rarely black and white and lawyers need to have a depth of experience to put together all relevant issues when advising clients. This could include the client’s background, their desired outcome, the current market situation, the position of an opponent, the way current cases are being decided, the strength of a case, cost limitations, the potential of alternative dispute resolution to help resolve matters and a dozen other variables. If the internet doesn’t have a definitive answer, ChatGPT may not either, but that won’t stop it from providing a reply.
Relying on information that doesn’t have a deep level of legal experience to analyse all the relevant variables could be disastrous.
Known risks include:
ChatGPT may make up the answers
If ChatGPT cannot source an accurate answer, it can create information. You will not be alerted to any content that has been made up and that is likely to be inaccurate. OpenAI which created Chat GBT says in a ‘Limitations’ section on its website: “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.”
ChatGPT will generate an answer, even if it only has limited or inaccurate sources
Similarly, if legal resources are not sufficient to provide ChatGPT with the information you need, it will still produce an answer. This will be based on the data it has. In the legal industry, this could be outdated legislation or case law.
Confidentiality could be compromised
ChatGPT could retain data that the user has input and use it elsewhere to respond to other people’s queries. This could cause problems with confidentiality. For example, it could remember that someone had enquired about developing a certain area of land and use this in an answer to a question from another individual.
ChatGPT has been shown to have bias
ChatGPT reflects the bias of its source of data, which can include gender and race bias.
So do we still need lawyers?
Yes, we do, at least for now. ChatGPT has a long way to go before it can contribute significantly to the legal profession. It will undoubtedly have a basic role that it could fulfil for law firms that enjoy playing with new tech, but they will be well advised to check and double-check anything produced by AI.
Lawyers will also need to be transparent with clients about the use of AI.
This article was produced without the use of AI.
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The above information is for general guidance on your rights and responsibilities and is not legal advice. If you need more details on your rights or legal advice about what action to take, please contact a legal advisor.